Thursday, May 27, 2010


Renovation complete, more or less

I know I said I'd return to regular blogging soon. It appears that soon is not yet, however. The summery weather has me painting outside again, and working in the garden (which is almost all in, finally), but not so much sitting in front of the computer. For anyone who is still with me, here is a short post with a few photos. I thought about posting some "before" pictures, but they are far too dreary. Instead, the finished third floor in all its clean splendour. The new dormer window in our formerly dark and dusty attic:

The view is out over the treetops, away down the hill, overlooking the northern edge of Penobscot Bay, or rather, to be precise, the place where the Penobscot River officially becomes the ocean. We see fog coming in, often. Which is good. If it were sunny and clear every day, instead of painting up here I might just spend all my time standing at the window and staring out at the horizon.

My hero Ken the Carpenter built great storage closets under the eaves - this one is for my art supplies. Everything painting-to-be goes in here - canvas, stretcher bars, wooden panels, gesso, extra paint, and my outdoor painting kit. The closets have black forged drop latches on them, and strap hinges:

Walk to the other end of the room and turn and look back and this is what you see - the picture window into the back yard and lots of open space. I know art studios traditionally have north-facing windows, but hey, this is Maine, and I for one am not going to put a skylight or dormer on the north side of this house, for ice to work its way into for several months of the year. The big window faces due east, the dormer south, another window faces west out over the street. That's a lot of light, any time of day. Besides, north light is dark light, if that makes any sense. I want light light.

We (I) painted the chimneys white so they blend in somewhat. Still no light fixtures (note bare bulb hanging from ceiling) and the door at the bottom of the stairwell won't close because the bannister pushed it out of its square slightly. But hey, that's about it, and who's complaining! Not me, this is the best workspace I've ever had. Over the years I've painted in cramped stairwell corners, dark hallways, crowded studios with other artists and all their messy stuff, kitchens. I loved the little studio room I had in the back of the bookshop, but it was only about eight by ten feet. So I painted these teensy paintings. This new room is thirty feet long - I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again - thirty feet long!

Now I need to get busy. The rest of the house is settling down - many books are in motion as we rearrange the book room and guest room - and I'm hoping to sell a lot of both books and paintings this summer, to build up our demolished savings account once again before snow flies and I worry about the winter heating bills. Here's to a good season...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Local forecast: bookish with a chance of showers

I spent this dark rainy day ensconced in the book room at home, regarding my subfusc accumulations with a jaundiced eye. Not to overly anthropomorphise, but they responded in kind. Having moved the books several times over the past few years, I find myself wanting to significantly lighten the load, so I've been culling again. The books seem to know, and cringe away from me deeper into the shelves.

They can't hide, though. I looked at every book on every shelf. Now, when we moved into this house, I haphazardly organized the books as I unpacked them, and haven't rearranged since. Which means today, sorting, I found Evelyn Waugh shelved in three different places, and W. Somerset Maugham in two, and Christopher Morley all over. I also found myself wondering if I will ever read anything by Anthony Powell (shelved in two places). Do I need A Dance to the Music of Time in both hardcover and softcover? Do I need books about Anthony Powell if I've never read Anthony Powell himself? Does my well-being require ten books by H.H. the Dalai Lama, or will five suffice? Am I required to keep books other people have given me, books I did not choose and will certainly never read? Books inscribed to me? Do I need to own a book just because I've already owned it for twenty years? If I will never have a complete collection of the McSweeney's oeuvre, why should I retain some decidedly odd novels just because they carry that imprint? I used to love the novels of Douglas Coupland, do I still? Is Lorrie Moore just too depressing to have around, brilliant as her books are, even if they are first editions? Why, exactly, do I have all these books about the British Empire, and why do I love them so? I did a lot of standing around and staring into space while thinking thoughts such as these. It made for a long day.

However, I also took action, and pulled twelve cartons' worth of books out of there, while using the criteria that what remains must be what I dearly love. The culls are headed to my book booth at the antiques mall in Bangor. Where they will no doubt reside indefinitely. So I really do still own them, even if they aren't here at home with me. A comforting thought, in many ways. It seems to be so much more difficult to deaccession books than it is to acquire them...

On the bright side (where I usually live, on non-rainy days), I rediscovered many wonderful things to read, and read soon. Also, what remains has room to breathe, and entire subjects have room to expand once again, should I be lucky enough to find additions. I've purposely avoided any book sales and shops recently, vowing to clear out before bringing more in. Mission accomplished.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Watching paint dry

Apologies for the hiatus. I've been working with the builder to finish the attic renovation, and I've been painting walls and ceilings for a week and a half, and am finally finished. He primed it, I painted it. A big job. I still have many window mullions, should I decide they need to be painted, instead of treated in some other fashion. But I can't face them just yet. I've been too tired to blog, and too tired to do much of anything else, either. The garden remains unplanted, to my chagrin. I haven't been at the easel at all, or read anything of note lately, or done much of anything except attempt to keep the house in order while this project wraps up. Of course it went on three weeks longer and cost twice as much as we'd hoped, but the result is worth it. The space is better than I'd ever dreamed it could be. Light-filled and old-fashioned and beautiful. I'll post some photos soon. Right now (or rather just before writing this post and resuming immediately after finishing writing this post) I'm moving in and setting up my studio. This involves two flights of stairs and four hundred paintings (give or take), many portfolios of drawings and watercolors, picture frames, three easels, a few tables and chairs, and several big baskets of art supplies. I'm taking an afternoon break, in the midst of all that, so here I am.

To catch up a bit, a few blog posts I mulled over but never wrote, during the last few weeks:

High points of home renovation (seeing the room primed for the first time, transformed from a big dark cobwebby space into a sunny light-box)

Low points of home renovation (dropping the shop-vac down the stairs, after vacuuming)

Visits with gallerists (two gallery owners/curators have been here recently to choose paintings for summer exhibits, details to follow)

Is there anything nicer than a room with absolutely nothing in it? (yesterday I almost wished I didn't have to move anything in there at all, except my yoga mat)

Rediscovering the library (moving all the stored paintings away from in front of the bookcases in the book room means I am meeting many old friends again)

Rediscovering the living room (moving all the recent paintings and easels and art supplies out of the living room means, well, we have a living room again)

Marathon roadside checkpoints (Ryan is running the Sugarloaf marathon in western Maine this Sunday - I'll be meeting him at points along the way, in the car, with extra shoes, clothes, calories, loud music, and anything else he might need to help him on his way to the finish line)

And finally, on a more serious note, one unwritten post has been particularly on my mind:

If you have your health, you have everything (a close family member will have an operation on Monday to remove a spot of lung cancer, which has me praying for him, and deeply appreciating the blessings of good health)

That's what's happening around here. I hope to return to regular writing again soon. Thanks for your patience, those who might still be reading.

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